Skip to Main Content

Academic Integrity & Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Contract Cheating?


University students often find themselves with much to do in a short amount of time. Sometimes, facing deadlines, you might be tempted to ask someone else to help you finish your assignments. This is called contract cheatingcontracting someone else to do the work you should be doing, often in exchange for money or favours.

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Buying a paper (or a portion thereof) online
  • Colluding with others on a take-home exam or test 
  • Submitting a take-home exam or test that has been written in full or in part by someone else
  • Purchasing or otherwise acquiring a copy of exam questions, tests, assignments, etc. by any unauthorized means (meaning other than example tests/questions provided by your professor for practice).
  • Impersonating another student or having someone impersonate oneself in class, at an exam or test, or in any other situation in which you are being evaluated
  • Allowing someone to use your assignment for academic credit

Contract cheating doesn't always involve an exchange of money; if a friend, classmate, parent, sibling, or former student writes an assignment or test for you, this is also contract cheating.

How is contract cheating different from plagiarism?

Plagiarism, as explained earlier, is when you have taken credit for ideas or work that you did not create. This can be done accidentally or intentionally, but in the end, you have still taken action: you copied and pasted the words, or wrote the words without the citation, and submitted the assignment.

Contract cheating means you have done NO work at all. You have had someone else do all of it. And this cannot be done accidentally; it is “deliberate, pre-planned and intentional” (Newton 2018). Especially if there is money involved, there can be no doubt that this was done on purpose.

Both are serious academic offenses, and carry serious reprocussions.

Collaboration vs Collusion

At times, you will be expected to work with others in a group project, or on a group assignment. You may also want to work with other students to figure out concepts you're learning in class. It's important you understand the difference between collaboration and collusion.

Collaboration: You have gotten together with a few friends to study, or perhaps you have a tutor helping you with an assignment. You discuss the questions, exchange information, but in the end, you write the assignment or test on your own, in your own words. This is collaboration, and this is just fine! Studying with others is a great way to learn.

Or your professor assigns you a group project. You are expected to work together to turn in a single assignment or paper. This is also collaboration, because you have been instructed to work together. You are both allowed and expected to do so.

Collusion: You’re stuck on an assignment question, so your tutor solves it (or part of it) for you. Or you borrow your friend’s assignment and copy the answer from that and submit it. This is collusion, and it is considered cheating. You have not done the learning or the work for yourself, but you will receive academic credit for it. That is an academic offense, and it will have consequences when discovered.


Sources and image credits:

Antoneshyn, A. (2020, Mar 3). Cheating scheme leaves 40 U of A students facing ‘significant sanctions’. CTV News

EdmontonRetrieved from

Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., Saddiqui, S., & van Haeringen, K.

(2019) Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 44(11), 1837-1856. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788

Eaton, S. E. (Jan 22 2020). Cheating my be under-reported across Canada’s universities and colleges.

UCalgary News. Retrieved from

Photo by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Photo by Noun Project, used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication/“Plagiarism vs Contract Cheating” modification is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by Kelsey MacGillivray

Photo “Wendt WisCEL: group work” by college.library, used under CC By 2.0